Oklahoma Christian University tried to find a way to honor a generous couple like the Lawsons. Al Branch, Executive Vice President, spearheaded the idea to take an underutilized area on campus and use it to benefit the Oklahoma Christian community.
Oklahoma Christian is dedicating the Lawson Commons to committed benefactors for the purpose of building a stronger community between the students on campus. The Lawson Commons consists of the grassy mall and outlining trees, a 100-foot clock tower and an 8,000 square foot pavilion located centrally between the main dormitories.
“Seeing all of the things that are happening at the school is exciting. OC is in a really good place with great enrollment and lots of various programs on campus. It is at a crossroads, ready to spring forward. We feel really good about the people that are leading OC and how they have been good stewards of our gift. They are making it about a vision that fulfills God’s will and not about what they want. They are working together to make the university what God wants it to be,” honoree Pat Lawson said.
The honorees have continually given their financial support and offered leadership and encouragement to the university. The Lawson Commons will honor three groups of people: the entire area is for Richard and Pat Lawson, the clock tower is honoring Josephine Freede and the pavilion is named for Jack and Wanda McGraw.
Josephine “Jose” Freede has been a great supporter of Christian education, to which she has given both her time and financial gifts. Oklahoma Christian awarded her with an honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree in 1995 for her efforts benefitting both the school and the state of Oklahoma.
“Jose is one of OC’s dearest friends and one of the state’s most important philanthropists, so it is our privilege to name the tower in her honor,” deSteiguer said.
The clock tower is also a part of the Oklahoma Centennial celebration. It is 100 feet tall for 100 years of Oklahoma statehood.
The pavilion honors the late Jack McGraw and his wife Wanda. Jack served on the Board of Trustees of Oklahoma Christian from 1989 to 2003. Oklahoma Christian awarded Jack an honorary Doctorate in Theology for his Christian leadership. The McGraws have established an endowment to provide support for the children of missionaries through scholarships. Because of the McGraw’s generosity, thousands of young people have been able to attend Christian schools.
“Jack and Wanda McGraw are two of the most caring peacemakers and lovers of people there are. We hope that the pavilion will be a place where people will gather on campus and spend time together,” deSteiguer said.
Richard and Pat Lawson are alumni of Oklahoma Christian. They have been serving their community and the Oklahoma Christian family for many years. After graduating, the Lawsons became interested in helping the school and responded to callouts.
Several years after graduating with a mathematics degree and receiving his master’s degree in computer science from Purdue University, Richard co-founded a home-based business in 1975, Lawson Software. This business has grown from its beginnings in the bedroom of the Lawson’s home into an international, multi-million dollar company headquartered in St. Paul, Minn. Richard is a member of Oklahoma Christians’s Board of Trustees and has served since 1994.
Pat Lawson graduated with a degree in elementary education. She is currently an active member of the North Texas Alumni Association, and through the years, she has opened their home to hundreds of students, alumni and faculty who have stayed with them who were travelling in Texas. The Lawson’s sons are also alumni of Oklahoma Christian.
“The Lawson’s generosity has touched many people in amazing ways, and they are two of the most humble people you could ever meet. God allowed this plan to come together with them,” deSteiguer said.
The Lawson Commons has already been an asset to Oklahoma Christian, hosting several campus events, including Homecoming activities and the Third Culture Kids (TCK) picnic during World Missions Workshop.
“It was such a beautiful day for the lunch and everyone had a great time out there. The lunch was catered by the cafeteria and all of the students enjoyed themselves. The pavilion is a great addition to the campus, and I imagine soon that we won’t know what we did without it,” adjunct faculty and TCK advisor Nancy Hartman said.
A large number of state, civic and community business leaders were in attendance at the dedication. The ceremony included speeches by Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry and University President Mike O’Neal, as well as the Lawsons.
The Lawsons are excited to see how this area adds to the campus and brings the students together. They are also excited about the place that Oklahoma Christian is in right now and how it will continue to grow and affect the surrounding community.
“[The Lawson Commons] makes a great gathering place that pulls the whole campus together. We would like to see that whole area filled with students relaxing and enjoying the space and really utilizing it. I remember when my husband and I were students here and there were Thursday night devotionals, so I hope that kind of thing can continue,” honoree Pat Lawson said.